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Communitarianism and its Critics - Daniel Bell

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Communitarianism and its Critics
Daniel Bell
Paperback / softback
Clarendon Press
UK Publication Date

Many have criticized liberalism for being too individualist, but few have offered an alternative that goes beyond a vague affirmation of the need for community.
In this entertaining book, written in dialogue form, Daniel Bell fills this gap, presenting and defending a distinctively communitarian theory against the objections of a liberal critic.
In a Paris caf Anne, a strong supporter of communitarian ideals, and Philip, her querulous critic, debate the issues.
Drawing on the works of such thinkers as Charles Taylor, Michael Sandel, and Alasdair MacIntyre, Anne attacks liberalism's individualistic view of the person by pointing to our social embeddedness.
She develops Michael Walzer's idea that political thinking involves the interpretation of shared meanings emerging from the political life of a community, and rebuts Philip's criticism that this approach damages her case by being conservative and relativistic. She goes on to develop a justification of communal life and to answer the criticism that communitarians lack an alternative moral vision.
The book ends with two later discussions, by Will Kymlicka and Daniel Bell, in which Anne and another friend, Louise, criticize the book's earlier debate and put it in perspective.

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the liveliest and most accessible introduction to the intensely important debate between liberals and communitarians that has yet appeared. For that reason alone-and quite apart from its persuasive advocacy of the communitarian cause-his book is very welcome: it will engage anyone torn between the rival claims of community and personal freedom in modern life, which, of course, is all of us.


A clear and very readable, indeed enjoyable, piece of writing. The dialogue form is used skilfully to bring the communitarian position to life and to give an overview of the debate between it and liberalism which is central to current social philosophy.

Times Higher Education Supplement

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